Four Beasts - Interpretation

The vision of the fourth beast, its little horn, and the war it wages on the saints is interpreted for Daniel by an angel

Daniel’s vision of the four beasts “from the sea” concludes with a judgment scene. In it, the figure “like a Son of Man” approaches the “Ancient of Days” and receives everlasting “dominion.” His vision leaves Daniel confused and troubled, but an angel provides him with the interpretation.

The figure of the “Son of Man” represents the people of God destined to inherit the kingdom. While he receives everlasting dominion over all nations, in the vision’s interpretation, it is the “saints” who receive sovereignty and “possess the kingdom.”

  • (Daniel 7:15-18) - “The spirit of, me, Daniel, was grieved in the midst of the sheath, and the visions of my head terrified me. I drew near to one of them who stood by and made exact enquiry of him concerning all this, so he told me, and the interpretation of the things made he known to me. These great beasts, which are four, are four kings who shall arise out of the earth; but the saints of the Highest shall receive the kingdom, and shall possess the kingdom for the age, yea, for the age of ages.”

The four “beasts” symbolize four kings and their respective kingdoms. In the vision, the “beasts” are ascending “from the sea,” but in the interpretation, “kings” are  seen ascending “from the earth.”


Thus, the interpretation moves out of the symbolic world and into the realm of history. The “earth” represents the peoples from which the four kingdoms “rise.”  Collectively, the four “beasts” are contrasted with the “saints” who are destined to receive the “everlasting kingdom” - (Daniel 7:19-23).

The focus of the interpretation is on the fourth “beast” and its “little horn.” The latter appears “stouter than its fellows” - the “ten horns” - and it becomes more prominent than the others. It then makes “war with the saints and prevails against them.” Thus, before receiving the kingdom, the “saints” must endure an assault by the “little horn.”

This corresponds to the description of the fourth beast that “tramples the remnant with its feet,” the “remnant” being identical to the “saints.” This understanding is confirmed in the next paragraph when the horn “speaks words against the Most High and wears out his saints” – (Daniel 7:24-28).

The “little horn” is the malevolent king who attempts to destroy the “saints,” and for a time, he prevails over them “until the Ancient of Days arrived, and justice was granted for the saints.” Only when God intervenes do the “saints” receive the kingdom.

The “little horn” is distinct from the other “ten horns” and rises to prominence after three “horns” are “removed.” It/he then speaks “words against the Most High and thereby wears out the saints.” This expands on the earlier description of its mouth “speaking great things,” and points to his royal edicts against the “saints.”

And this malevolent figure attempts to “change times and the law,” thus, trespassing on divine prerogatives. As Daniel previously declared, God alone “changes times and seasons” - (Daniel 2:21).

The Aramaic term rendered “times” is a generic one for referring to time delimited in several possible ways - weeks, months, and years, for example. The Septuagint Greek version translates the word with kairos, meaning “season, set time.” In view are the annual feasts and rituals in the Levitical regulations that the “little horn” tries to change or simply eliminate - (Leviticus 23:1-4).

His “war” will last for a “time, times, and a dividing of time.” The Aramaic text is not precise, and more correctly reads - “time (singular), times (plural), and part of a time.”  The last clause can mean any portion of a full “time,” however long or short.


The four beastly regimes “were given a lengthening of life for a season and a time.” Since the same temporal terms are applied to the first three kingdoms, and since each endured for a different length of time, the “season and time” do not represent a literal number. Each realm is “given” dominion and life by God, the one who changes “times and seasons” - (Daniel 2:21).

The period of a “time, times and part of a time” does not refer to the length of this king’s reign, but it defines the period during which it “speaks words against the Most High,” wages war on the “saints,” and “changes times and the law.”

That things were “given into his hand” signifies that God remains in firm control of events. The period of suffering will come to an end at the appointed time. In contrast, the victory of the saints will last forever. The “little horn” will lose its dominion and be “consumed and destroyed.”

The oppression of the “saints” is part of the process necessary for establishing the kingdom of God, otherwise, why does God “give” persecuting power to this malevolent creature?

The “kingdom and dominion” are given to the “people of the saints.” In the vision, the kingdom was given to the one “like a son of man,” but in the interpretation, to the “saints.”

In verse 27, the plural pronoun gives way to a singular. It is “his kingdom” and “all dominions will serve him”. The singular pronouns refer to the one like a “Son of Man.” Thus, he represents the saints, and their fates are inextricably linked.

The chapter concludes with Daniel troubled and terrified by his vision, indicating that he does not understand it. But he keeps the matter in his heart. This sets the stage for further illumination in the next vision.



Silence in Heaven

Sorrow Not